Maine….. Or check off states 48&49, which just leaves Alaska.
October 12, 2013
So do you have to tag blog posts with a #latergram or #whythehelldidittakesolong or #delayedpost type hashtag? Because I seem to not get stuff written in real time, and then never get it written because I feel guilty or weird or something for not posting promptly. Anyway….
Over Labor Day, my niece was married in Maine. The trip to celebrate this marriage was the real reason for our trip to Boston. I grew up in a family which traveled often (in the road trip style that was the norm back then). Between lots of childhood trips, business trips and the love of travel my parents instilled in me, I had been to 47 of the 50 US states. Alaska, New Hampshire and Maine remained (haha that made me laugh) to be conquered. The drive from Boston ticked off NH into the been there done that check off the list column, while Maine made me want to return. Even if the drive from Boston seemed never ending, who knew Maine was such a long state.
The wedding was in the small town of Winter Harbor, a coastal village in the Arcadia National Forest area. The coastline here is stunning due to the rocky nature. We knew we wanted to explore by bikes, so one of the first things we did was ask the Innkeeper for recommendations. She suggested Seascape Kayaks in nearby Birch Harbor. It was a good thing we stopped by on Saturday morning, as they are closed on Sunday. The owner graciously offered to size us to bikes and helmets, and leave them in a rack for us to grab on Sunday.
After securing the bikes we used the rest of the morning before the wedding to explore the island, and take in the beauty of the shore. I was taken with the rock seams between the sparkly speckled granite and the black rock.
The wedding was beautiful, the bride gorgeous. Kiddo’s sister and her Mom were in from Maryland. As was Hubby’s brother, the father of the bride. It was great to all be together to celebrate. From the gift bags in our room to the thoughtful touches like dancing shoes, bug spray and a pre-planned hashtag it was evident much thought and planning had been put ino e event. They even sat us for dinner with another cycling couple!
Sunday began with a wedding brunch, and then our chance to bike tour. Seascape Kayaking is perfectly situated along the 12 mile loop around the Schoodic Peninsula. Nearly half the route is in the one way Park Service road which has several options to stop, picnic, use the potties and take in the views. We even saw a porcupine along the ride. A first for me outside a zoo. Kiddo loved exploring and climbing the rocks along the shore.
After returning the bikes, we drove over to Bar Harbor to look around and grab a bite to eat. Naturally I searched out a brewery for this.Atlantic Brewing and Mainely Meats was our stop. Recommend both for a visit!
We stayed at a charming bed and breakfast in Prospect Harbor. Gracious hosts. Great food (even accommodated my gluten free requests). A wonderful option if you’re in the area. I can’t wait to go back!
Boston by Bike
September 8, 2013
Naturally once I knew we were visiting Boston, I began searching for information on biking around the city. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the city has a website emphasizing the importance of bike friendliness as critical to Mayor Menino’s vision for a vibrant and healthy city that benefits all its citizens. There’s a bike share program with tons of kiosk locations called The Hubway.
Seeing all this, I knew we needed to work riding into our plan, and decided we’d rent bikes from Urban Adventours. They are a bike shop in the Long Wharf area that offers both bike sightseeing tours and 24hr bike rentals. Rentals include a lock, helmet, and excellent bike maps. Just in case, I opted to rent a flat kit, as we both can change flats. Thankfully, however, we didn’t need to, but better safe than sorry, right?!? I’d made reservations on-line, and had even gotten a call confirming times, sizes, etc. The on site staff was equally helpful. Adjusting seats, giving us hints and tips. We picked up the bikes Thursday morning around 11am, returned them the full 24 hours later.
For our first day of riding, we followed their suggested route along the Charles River. Leaving from the shop and ending at our hotel we rode 15 or so miles along this route which they suggest for families, as it is nearly all on off-street paved bike paths. The route follows the Boston side of the river out past Boston University, crossing the river at Harvard University into Cambridge. The return is on the Cambridge side past both Harvard and MIT into Charlestown. The path on the Boston side of the river was more heavily used, but not to the extent it caused any issues or concerns (unlike my recent ride along Chicago’s lakeshore path that was crazy busy).
Small parks dot the path, which has minimal street level road crossings, esp. on the Boston side, usually the path goes under the road along the river. Once to Harvard, we left the planned route to stop for lunch at City Sushi and then tour Harvard by bike and by walking our bikes around Harvard Yard (lots of signs there reminding you to dismount).
Click on any picture or collage for a larger version.
Naturally, Kiddo had to get his photo taken touching the now shiny left foot of the Harvard statue. This is a popular activity, we had to wait for in line behind 10 or so others.
Stored the bikes overnight in our hotel room (Yes, you can do this. I do it all the time. Just walk confidently through the lobby onto the elevator with your bike. No problem!) On Friday morning, we followed Urban Adventours “city view” route. This route starts on the Charles river path of the previous day but then is nearly entirely on city streets. However, Urban Adventours has done an excellent job of designing the route to keep you on roads and streets with bike lanes, sharrows and where possible less traffic.
We rode around Boston University, Fenway Park, The Christian Scientist Plaza and much of the area on the south end of the Freedom Trail. Kiddo did an incredible job riding in traffic. Followed the rules of the road. Rode confidently but predictably. This route has tons of turns, so I kept the map handy, and stopped often to check where we needed to go (and a couple of times how to get back on track). This route is great – but probably best for folks used to riding on streets and with confidence in their bike skills. In total we rode about 13 miles more or less following this route.
One of the most pleasant surprises was the community garden area in the Back Bay Fens.
Along both routes, we made stops to explore and play in the parks. Both sides of the river had fitness parks, even a small zip line.
Bikes give you freedom to explore at a more human level. You can cover plenty of ground, take frequent breaks and see the city at a slower pace than by car or bus. I highly recommend adding to your trips…and in Boston Urban Adventours is a great option to do just this.
There’s also a post about our walking the Freedom Trail here. And here’s the full photo set of our Boston visit.
Chicago DivvyBikes #fail
August 8, 2013
I love bike share programs. As someone who adores being able to tour a city by bike, or sneak a quick ride into a business trip, they provide a great option to me. I also think they help embed the idea of using a bike as transport into many people who wouldn’t think of them as such. I love when I hear about another city adding a bike share program, be it New York City or here in Milwaukee, and hope the concept becomes the norm in all cities.
It was sad when the B-cycle experiment in Chicago ended after a single season a few years back. Due to that and my frequent visits there, I’ve been following the news and buzz about Chicago’s new bike share program called Divvy Cycles. I was excited to give the system a try during this week’s business trip to Chicago.
I thought ahead to bring my helmet (personal preference, saw tons of people on the bikes sans helmets all around the city).
Having downloaded the Cycle Finder app to my iPhone, I headed from my hotel around 5:30pm to the Divvy station at Grand and Fairbanks Court , which was the nearest station and had 11 bikes available. The touchscreen on the rental kiosk seemed very slow to respond, and kept looping back to the initial language choice welcome screen. Finally it asked me to “dip my card” (swipe my credit card), and began to process. And process, and process. Back to welcome screen. One more try, same thing. A young man came up, tried with his credit card. No luck. Said same thing happened previous day. App in had we both headed to the station at Illinois and McClurg. This time we both got a screen with an error message suggesting we contact Divvy via phone.
Divvy’s customer service rep told me that machines often time out, and to try again, try another station, or come back another time. No exactly helpful advice. Off to the next station at Illinois and Streeter. Same thing. Although here we did see a person successfully take out a bike – but using a credit card already in the system. By this time, between the other guy and I we had tried 4 different credit cards at 3 stations, multiple times.
I had planned the stations with a Plan B in mind, as I was determined to ride a bike. Off to Bike & Roll at Navy Pier to rent a “fitness” bike (a Trek 7.2). A more expensive option, but at least an option.
My plan of touring around the city for a couple of hours from Divvy station to Divvy station swapping bikes every 30 minutes, turned into “go for a long ride along the lake”. Off to the Lakefront Trail I went. Which was PACKED. Still was a great ride. Navy Pier is roughly in the middle, and I planned to ride the entire 18 mile length for a 36 mile round trip ride. First headed north to the zero Mile marker at that end.
About 15 miles in, I paused at the Ohio Street Beach to eat an apple, and watch the swimmers train along the breakwater. As a former competitive swimmer and lifeguard, I’ve always been fascinated by these swimmers – water is so cold.
Shortly after passing the Shedd Aquarium, my phone rang repeatedly. Again and again. Enough that I couldn’t ignore. It was Bike&Roll calling to warn me of an incoming storm and requesting I bring the bike back ASAP. Turned around at the 10mile southbound marker, making my ride an even 20miles. Was sad I couldn’t do the entire length – but realize even though no storm appeared, the crowds had slowed me so much that it would have been very dark when I made the trip back from the 0 marker south.
A couple of notes about the Strava from this ride. First, the elevation map (or lack thereof) makes me laugh…so much grey space with the tiny bumps at the bottom, but seriously, 0 feet gain, I don’t see a flat line. ;-). Secondly, it makes me sad to see there were 43 visible segments in this 20 miles and 27 hidden segments. This is a very, very crowded path with bikers, runners, walkers, dog walkers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and clueless tourists peering through cameras mid path. This is not a path to earn KOM/QOM. Tracking mileage is fine. Going for record speeds, dangerous. Don’t be a Stravasshole
Shoulda looked a bit closer at that Milwaukee by Bike map
October 8, 2010
In May or June of 2009, the Bike Federation of Wisconsin did a lunch-n-learn event at my workplace on bike commuting. In addition to a great lecture, question and answer session, they provided each attendee with a packet of info – rules of the road, biking tips and a copy of the Milwaukee by Bike map. At the time, I was only flirting with the idea of taking up cycling. It wasn’t for another month or two that I started riding regularly. However, this was a map of Milwaukee County and I live in Waukesha county. Not relevant to me. Or so I thought. And so, this great bike map was filed away with the other maps in my collection. (I’m a bit of a map geek, like reading them believe it or not, part of my travel and trip planning obsession).
But, the seed was planted to bike commute.
That lunch-n-learn, plus the free helmets my employer gave to the attendees spurred me to finally start riding. First a quick spin around the neighborhood on a men’s mountain bike – which both wore me out and gave me one sore bottom, causing me to learn about women specific design both in saddles and bikes. Soon I was taking my trusty 25 year old Schwinn on longer and longer rides. Since then I’ve added a couple of bikes to my stable. First a road bike, now a hybrid, all-trail bike.
In a testament to how big a part of my life this new hobby/sport/pastime of biking has become, I’ve written several blog posts about biking. In fact I’d say biking may be the most frequent theme or at least mention of any topic (Remember, this blog *started* as a gardening blog. It was biking that took it down the current random path). Discovering the Glacial Drumlin trail, exploring new places around my neighborhood, suddenly realizing I did not live in a flat area, riding the Chicago lakefront trail, riding Milwaukee’s lakefront trail, my first organized ride, rented bikes and rode around California’s wine country, and my recent 1st try at mountain biking.
But still I did not bike commute.
Logistics, carrying clothes, laptop, etc. played a part in my hesitancy But mainly, I wasn’t commuting because I was afraid. Of traffic. That I wouldn’t be able to make it there and back. I should have looked at that bike map. After all, half of my commute is in Milwaukee county. And nearly 100% of the parts I was worried about traffic are in Milwaukee county. For those familiar with the area; I’m talking about from 124th to Hawley…basically crossing through ‘Tosa. North and Watertown Plank are heavily trafficked during commute times, and lane changes and position jockeying at stop lights along State St. scare me in my car – let alone riding.
However, luck would have it that in my search to find best trails to try out mountain biking for the first time, I discovered Hoyt Park in Wauwatosa had an easy MTB trail. This is only 3 or 4 miles from my office. So I threw my all trail bike into my car and decided to give the Hoyt trails a try over lunch.
And tested out riding from the office to Hoyt Park……which led me to discover the Oak Leaf Trail. After a couple of days doing that, and wanting to go a bit further over lunch, I threw the road bike into the car, and continued on the Oak Leaf. Riding past the halfway point to my house. Yes, following the trail versus taking the roads adds a bit over a mile to my ride, but almost completely covers the scary traffic part. And riding more than halfway home and back over lunch convinced me that I could make the 11.3 mile trip each way.
Finally, 15 months after thinking I should bike commute to work, I finally am doing it. And loving it – esp. this one section of the route. It’s beautiful with or without the frost. Love the asters, the solidago, can’t wait to see this small bit of wildflowers in other seasons.
Tho’ my FaceBook and Daily Mile friends are probably tired of hearing me complain about the ride home being harder, more uphill. Which it is. And god knows, I’m much more of the slow, steady and consistent effort ilk than the power up hills type. However, if I want to also take up mountain biking, that needs to change. Using the commute to work on standing to pedal up hills, mashing if necessary, using the downhill by Hansen Golf Course (and bumpy pavement) to practice a MTB descent, up off the saddle, slightly behind the seat, feathering the brakes. Maybe some day I’ll be doing hill intervals on Hillside Dr. on my way home, instead of bitching about it, all the while wishing I could find a flatter route through Elm Grove.
Unfortunately, the long shadows and low sun are reminding me that my bike commuting days will come to an end soon for this season. Not sure I’m up for riding in the dark. Definitely know this route is too hilly to chance in the snow and ice. But know that next year, making the bike commute a regular part of my week will improve my biking fitness, ability to handle hills while relieving stress, and bringing a bit of green into my lifestyle.